How the Japanese Handled Imperialism

  • In the nineteenth century, Japan experiences a dramatic shift from the conservative, isolationist policies of the Edo period to the rapid and widespread drive to modernize and engage with the rest of the world that characterizes the Meiji Restoration.
  • During the first half of the century, there was decades of social disruption caused by the growth of a market economy and a complex economic system in a country that is still based on agriculture, which supports both the farming and privileged.
  • However the unproductive samurai classes continued to weaken the country in general. Increasingly aggressive intrusions by Western powers not only put pressure on Japan but convinced its political leaders that the Seclusion Policy has both limited the country’s participation in technological advances and worldwide changes and has also handicapped the economy by restricting its involvement in global trade.
  • Taking advantage of the disruption caused by these internal and external crises, in 1867 several powerful daimyo (regional warlords) band together and overthrew the leader at the time, brought in a new emperor, and started a revolution called the Meiji Restoration.


  • Japan was not formally colonized by Western powers, but was a colonizer itself. It has, however, experienced formal semi colonial situations where European powers attempted to colonize it. Which caused for modern Japan to be profoundly influenced by Western colonialism in many ways.
  • It is not true that “practically all Asian nations were colonized by the Europeans”. China and Russia were never colonized and they are a very large part of Asia in territory and population.
  • European colonizers mostly were successful in those territories close to the ocean. However Japan is an unique example.
  • Europeans discovered Japan in the 16th century, and started to penetrate it, setting the trade posts and converting the locals to Christianity. Which could have lead to colonization, as it lead in other places.
  • However the Japanese rulers were able to recognize the dangers early, and started an effective resistance. They used drastic measures like killing all those who converted to Christianity, banning firearms, prohibiting overseas travel. This way they managed to isolate the country almost completely and became a world power .
  • One important point was probably the unity of Japan. In other places, Europeans were able to colonize a country by taking sides in local conflicts, or to enlist some people opposing to the rulers.


  • Japan’s first encounter with Western colonialism was with Portugal.
  • The Portuguese brought Catholicism and the new technology of guns and gunpowder into Japan and changed the way samurai rulers fought wars, and accelerated the process of national unification.
  • In the following era, national rulers came increasingly to regard Catholicism as a serious threat to their authority. The Tokugawa shogunate eventually banned Christianity nationwide, and persecuted its followers. This experience contributed to the formation of the closed nation policy.
  • This policy was a response to the advance of Western colonialism, although its major objective was to consolidate the new regime. It banned Japanese overseas travel and contact with foreigners, and gave the government a monopoly over foreign trade.
  • The only European power that was allowed to trade with Japan was a new Protestant power, Holland, which was strictly confined to the port of Nagasaki. Yet through the study of Dutch materials, the Japanese were exposed to the latest European knowledge in fields such as medicine, botany, astronomy, and geography.

  • In 1825 the Japanese government began pursuing a hard-line policy, by attacking foreign ships other than those operated by the Dutch and Chinese, and by persecuting those who argued for the opening up of the country to foreign trade.
  • Britain’s victory over China in the Opium War (1839-1842) deepened Japan’s fear of colonization, and a debate erupted among concerned samurais in Japan over how to react to the encroachments of industrialized Western powers in search of markets and raw materials. Although the government acted quickly to strengthen Japan by acquiring the technology and skills of these powers, especially weaponry and military strategies, the opening up of the country was now about to happen.
  • However, Japan didn’t opening doors for trade did not result from a government policy change, but was forced on Japan by the military might of the new Pacific power, the United States.
  • While Britain was engaged in the Crimean War, the Tokugawa shogunate government gave in to the pressure of Commodore Matthew Perry and his East Indian U.S. Navy Fleet, and concluded the U.S.-Japan Friendship Treaty in 1854.
  • As a result, the ports were opened. The government further concluded a bilateral trade treaty with the United States in 1858 followed by similar treaties with the Netherlands, Russia, Britain, and France.

Crimean War

What was the Crimean War?

  • It was a war fought by an alliance of Britain, France, Turkey and Sardinia against Russia. It broke out in October 1853, and Britain and France became involved in 1854 and the war ended 2 years later in February 1856.

What caused the Crimean War?

  • Russia was expanding into the Danube region which is present-day Romania. Danube was under Turkish control at the time. Turkey and Russia went to war in 1853 over it, and the year after Britain and France got involved because they feared Russia would expand rapidly.
  • Britain and France did not like to see Russia pushing down into the Danube region. They feared Russia would continue pushing down, and eventually come into British India through Afghanistan.
  • Religious tensions also played a part. Russia made an issue of the fact that the holiest sites in Christianity – Jerusalem, Bethlehem etc – were under Turkish control.
  • Russians wanted to be able to exercise protection over the Orthodox people of the Ottoman Empire.
  • There was also a dispute between Russia and France over the privileges of the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches in the holy places in Palestine.

Main Events

  • The battle of Sinope:
    • Russia sinks Ottoman ships at Sinope in the Black Sea
  • Start of the Crimean Invasion:
    • 60,000 British and French troops arrive: the key target was the Russian naval base of Sevastopol
  • The Battle of Alma:
    • The British and French defeated Russian forces at the Alma River near Sevastopol
  • The start of the siege of Sevastopol:
    • The first British and French bombardment in the city of Sevastopol.
  • The Battle of Balaclava:
    • Desperate to break the siege, the Russians advanced on the British supply base at Balaclava with 25,000 men
  • The Battle of Inkerman:
    • An unsuccessful Russian attack on British forces near Sevastopol.
  • The end of the Siege of Sevastopol:
    • The Russian evacuated Sevastopol; the British and French finally attain their target.
  • Armistice in Crimea:
    • British, French and Ottoman victory
  • The Treaty of Paris:
    • Russia regained the land that had been occupied; the Black Sea was neutralised.


What are the Effects of the Crimean War?

  • Russia lost, because the Europeans had modernized militaries which the Russians lacked.
  • First modern war very mechanized and marked the transition from traditional to modern warfare. There was a lot of use of new weaponry and technology.
  • Russian Expansion was ended (especially in the Ottoman Empire).
  • Embarrassment: no longer a significant military power and became behind in the race to industrialization.
  • Europeans start having a strong influence, especially Britain and France.
  • Urbanization occurs in result of influence and new reforms.
  • The Ottoman Empire becomes too dependent on European loans.
  • The Ottoman Empire’s power continues to decline until it’s end in 1922.
  • Austria becomes the mediator for peace (Treaty of Paris 1856; ended the Crimean War. Signed between Russia on one side and France, Great Britain, and Turkey/O.E on the other).


The First Anglo-Afghan War Simplified

  • Afghanistan has seen a lot more warfare in modern times compared to other countries.
  • Interventions and invasions from other countries has been a constant threat there since the 1800’s.
  • The Soviet Union in the 1980’s and The US in the 2000’s have both seen what it is like to fight in Afghanistan.
  • However the first Western power to attack Afghanistan was Britain.
    • It treated the war as a buffer towards the growing Russian Empire.
    • Which resulted in the First Anglo-Afghan War
    • Anglo means English.
  • Throughout history, Afghanistan has been divided into different ethnic and tribal divisions.
    • All having their own identity, culture, languages, rules.
  • So basically unity amongst the nation was hard to achieve.
  • Afghanistan also was a tension point between Safavid Persia on the West, and Mughal India to the East.
  • However with all the tensions an Afghan State was forming, under Ahmad Shah Durrani, and he established a kingdom in Kandahar.
  • He included ethnic groups in his administration to avoid ethnic civil war.
  • But the rise of both Russian and British Empires were the problem for the Afghan State in the 1800s.
  • The British had control over parts of India, and Russia slowly entered the Central Asian Turkic areas that were around Afghanistan’s northern borders.
  • For the British, Russia’s growth was a threat, and they were afraid that Russia would invade Afghanistan and find a way to invade India through Afghanistan, since it was less mountainous there. (Himalayas everywhere else – secure border)
  • So the British tried to stop that from happening, so if they could get the Emir (king) Dost Mohammad Khan who ruled Kabul, to keep good relations w/ Russia, and stop them from invading, Britain India would be secure.
  • 1830s- however Dost Mohammad’s diplomatic skills were weak – Russians allied w/ Persia to invade Afghanistan, but the British to stop that from happening thought that full on invading Afghanistan would be better, so they overthrew Dost Mohammad Khan, and established a new Emir – Shah Shujah Durrani – (pro-British).
  • Late 1838-and beginning of 1839 Britain with 20,000 soldiers invaded Afghanistan.
    • The British were more strong when it came to equipment, technology, and training, whereas the Afghans had warriors called Ghizais, but they were not full time loyal soldiers, and had the ability to abandon the battles and blend in as normal citizens.
  • 1839- Kandahar was lost, and fell to the British in April.
    • 500-1200 Afghans were killed, and only 17 British were killed in the siege.
    • Tried to save Kabul, but army started to abandon, only 3000 men offered services.
  • British power in Kabul brought changes to the living conditions of people – lack of food and supplies, inflation, and religious ppl were almost worthless.
  • 1841 – Angry people, about 15,000 started a big protest in Kabul, and the civilians who were actually warriors also picked up weapons and fought. They very quickly weakened many of the British troops there because they were well spread out.
  • Commander of British forces – General William Elphinstone noticed the weakness on his side, and managed an agreement of  retreat to Jalalabad to the East, with an army of 4,500 and followers of 12,000, and left Kabul in 1842.
  • However Ghilzais weren’t a part of the agreement, so they ambushed and harassed the British on their way, and it was winter, so many of them died due to the climate.
  • When they arrived to Jalalabad, only 1 man survived.
  • Afghanistan had a huge victory, by defeating Elphinstone’s huge army.
    • Gov. in Kabul collapsed, and Shah Shujah Durrani was assassinated in 1842
    • Dost Mohammad Khan came back to retake position of emir.
    • National unity started in Afghanistan.
    • Xenophobia started among the Afghans.
    • First Anglo-War gave Afghanistan the reputation of “the graveyard of empires” meaning that it is unconquerable.

Why People of the Present Should Study Events that Encompass the Past

Indeed, it is true that history has repeated itself several times, and human beings tend to make similar mistakes to what their past generations had made. Which is why it is so crucial to have knowledge of past events that had occurred, in order to avoid making such errors again. And it is unquestionable that the past, present, and future are interdependent. Thus, what had taken place in former times will have an impact on the present, and therefore what occurs now will do the same for the future.

A justification for exploring and attempting to comprehend historical events is that, by doing so, it assists us in understanding our present day events, and guides us when it comes to finding solutions to the crises we face in our time. History is like any manual or guidebook that comes with any equipment we purchase, such as house-hold appliances, without them we are completely oblivious as to what to do and how to do it. History remains to be a reminder for all people and gives us guidelines on how to run society and interact with others.

Overall, history may not seem as important to us, however, we do not always realize that history is what makes up our today and how it has an affect on how everything works and why things happen. Whenever we are in need of an answer to why something takes place, we are always lead back to the past and only then do we find our answers. Studying history gifts one the ability to critically think about political, economical, any other type of situations for that matter. It makes one a more informed and concerned citizen, who can predict and infer future occurrences from what they know about the past, and act on those inferences.

All in all, studying history and having knowledge on important past events, are major tools to have in order to be enlightened and sophisticated beings of your time. Which is why we should be grateful for the excessively difficult Social Studies or History classes we took, are currently taking, or will take, as they change our ways of thinking, without us noticing it. 

Comment down below, what your opinion is: Is history important to have knowledge of, or should we leave the past in the past? Do you think school systems can make Social Studies or History classes more interesting for students, so that they can actually take something away from the classes? What has history taught you, and how do you see the present events differently due to what you know?